We've known for a while that the Atlanta Hawks were planning to unveil new uniforms before June's 2015 NBA draft in time for the 2015-16 season, and we'd already seen a couple of leaked images giving us a sense of what they might look like — first the triangular patterns and green accents on the leaked Christmas Day unis, then the new winged-A-lookin' alternate logo, then the sneak peek at the new wordmarks to appear on the chest and shorts of the uniforms.
The official reveal came Wednesday morning, but Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got a jump on the proceedings with a Tuesday night leak of several photos of the new kits:
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... so, yeah, those early looks were bang-on. There's the triangle pattern in the fabric, the full-scale replacement of the "Hawks" jersey wordmark with newly stylized "Atlanta" and "ATL" blocks and, lest we forget, quite a bit of that neon green accent coloring. The NBA's "most modern and cutting edge uniforms," indeed!
Several sharp-eyed observers, including Chris Creamer of SportsLogos.net, suggested that the green was a nod to a brief period in the early 1970s when the Hawks moved away from a red, white and blue color scheme to one that prominently featured neon green in the home, away and, most notably, alternate uniforms. The Hawks weren't particularly good back then, finishing below .500 in both the 1970-71 and '71-'72 seasons, but they did employ the legendary "Pistol" Pete Maravich during that stretch, which seems as good a reason as any to go green.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin confirmed the homage at Wednesday's unveiling:
For what it's worth, the video presentation unveiling the new uniforms called it "Volt Green," while confirming that the road unis are "Georgia Granite Gray," not black. (And that's "Torch Red," for your information.) The presentation also recast the triangles as a "feather pattern [that] captures the essence of an attacking hawk." It's all about the essence, after all.
Here is that video presentation, with Koonin introducing the brand new duds:
... and here's the top-to-bottom look officially put forth by the Hawks, who are trumpeting the fact that "socks, shoes and laces were built as part of the overall uniform kit" as a brand new feature in the uni game:
The Hawks are also trumpeting the opportunity to mix-and-match their new jerseys and their new shorts, showcasing gray-top/red-bottom and red-top/gray-bottom pairings during the unveiling. We'll have to see how that looks on the court; it hasn't worked out so hot for the teams that have tried it in the past.
Here's what they look like on honest-to-goodness Hawks players, with point guard Jeff Teague rocking the granite, a walking-booted Kyle Korver suiting up in the home white and reserve swingman Kent Bazemore decked out in red:
One must wonder whether Bazemore was one of the intended models all along, considering his jersey had 15 on the front and 16 on the back, rather than his No. 24, and dummy text in the place of his last name:
Either way, he did his duty with aplomb.
While the textured pattern and the heavy dollop of green raised some eyebrows in the hours after Vivlamore's post, it's probably worth considering the new unis in the context of the Hawks' ongoing mission of trying to draw in younger fans, with Koonin looking to strengthen his club's ties to the young, upwardly mobile, predominantly African American prospective fan base in the heart of Atlanta. From a January story on the Hawks' efforts by ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz:
Twice a week on summer nights, Koonin assembled more informal focus groups at his house in Buckhead composed of his 27-year-old son, David, and a diverse group of his millennial friends and co-workers, fans and non-fans. Koonin hooked up his iPad to a 65-inch Apple TV and asked the millennials their impressions of various marketing proposals.
Over beer and homemade bagel bites, they weighed in on everything from potential smartphone Hawks apps to mockups of new team uniforms that look like a cross between something a Marvel superhero would wear and the Oregon football unis (which the research said millennials are nuts about, even if your dad thinks they're hideous).
"I wanted to get confirmation because I wasn't the target," Koonin said. "When I worked in television, I was much more of the target demographic and I could relate to the product and there was a gut sense of what worked. With the Hawks, I'm a middle-aged white Buckhead executive talking about African-Americans and millennials."
Hip-hop star and Atlanta native T.I. offered an unintentional boost of support for the new direction when asked to choose which jersey he'd like to wear when performing at the Hawks' 2014-15 home opener, according to ESPN.com's Matt Walks:
"We had lots of options," Hawks Chief Creative Officer Peter Sorckoff said. "But he opened up a bag and pulled out a lime-green flat-billed New Era hat with the blue brim — he just showed up with it. He said, 'Man, I want the green one."
It was a 1970 Pete Maravich jersey, a throwback to the funky, avant-garde uniforms with green accents that Atlanta wore for just two seasons, and it remains one of the team's best sellers. [...]
"It almost validated what we wanted to do," [Sorckoff] said. "We would've chosen [green] anyway even if it didn't forecast well because of what it meant to us and to our history, but there's a very real science behind it."
The application of that science continues an approach that's given rise to unique elements like the hip-hop organ mastery of Sir Foster, the Tinder-centered "Swipe Right Night" promotion, the release of an emoji-heavy mobile app tied to the unique tattoos of forward Mike Scott, and more. With the Hawks soaring on the court, as well, winning a franchise-record 60 games and making it to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in team history, Atlantans responded — the Hawks averaged 17,412 fans at home games this season, playing to 93 percent of Philips Arena's capacity, up from 14,339 and 76.6 percent in 2013-14.
Whether this latest rebranding effort will help nudge those numbers even further north remains to be seen, but it certainly seems like a bold move intended more to draw the eye of younger consumers than to elicit "way to keep it minimalist!" pats on the back from those of us who dug the Philadelphia 76ers' new old look but didn't much care for the Los Angeles Clippers' attempt at a reboot. Koonin apparently swears he's displeased by Tuesday's leak, but if young fans wind up voting for the patterns and neon with their dollars, he could wind up loving all this extra attention.
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